Travel

Group Getaways: Escaping With Friends

From scenic spas to movie sets, bond over unique escapes

The filming locations of 'Death and Other Details' and 'White Lotus'

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2024 issue of Seattle magazine.

 

It happens over wine or an espresso. The conversation about why you don’t see more of your close friends blooms into escape plans with your nearest and dearest. Group getaways strengthen the bond of friendship laughter flows freely, and memories are made. The best group trips center on a theme: total relaxation, picturesque destination, or cool activities close to home you might not normally try. 

Here are some different ways to vacation. It’s never too soon to gather the group.

Spa & Wellness

Sage Lodge & Spa, Pray, Montana

Seated on the banks of the Yellowstone River with tranquil views of Paradise Valley, Mont., infuses the rugged beauty of Sage Lodge & Spa. Group experiences grounded in the local culture stand out, along with the thoughtful spa menu. Culinary delights tell Montana’s story, while curated picnics and stand-alone ranch houses make this an ideal Western group getaway.

There’s never enough time to “spa it all,” but Sage Lodge has some truly unique options. The on-site energy healer leads group guided meditations to identify blocks; sessions for ancestral healing help us tap into and deal with our own heritage. Spa menu items like Balasana yoga and Yellowstone River Rock Massage are rewarding selections, while Llama Trekking and plein-air painting will be reminisced and revisited until the next getaway. Hike through Montana with a friendly llama by your side with gorgeous views of Emigrant Peak or cater to your creative side and learn the technique of plein-air painting at the foot of the Absaroka Mountains.

Grab your cowboy hats and dust off those boots there’s more group bonding to rustle up. Embark on a day trip to Yellowstone National Park, marveling at geothermal wonders like Old Faithful, wildlife sightings, and awe-inspiring landscapes. Cast your rod and reel with a guided fly-fishing excursion on the legendary Yellowstone River or unwind under the vast Montana sky with an evening of stargazing. The crystal-clear skies and minimal light pollution create the perfect backdrop for celestial meditation.

Pond view of the standalone ranch houses at Sage Lodge near the Yellowstone National Park

Photo courtesy of Sage Lodge & Spa

Fly fishing on Yellowstone River

Photo by B Brown / Shutterstock

Set-Jetting

There’s a new trend emerging that takes your group on location vacations: Set-Jetting. 

Set-jetting is the trend of traveling to destinations known for their roles as filming locations in movies, offering a unique way to experience the settings of favorite films.

 

Malta for Death and Other Details

The enchanting island of Malta hosts fans of the Hulu murder mystery Death and Other Details. Malta’s captivating scenery serves as more than just a backdrop; it was an integral character in the show’s twists and turns. Traverse the winding streets and sun-drenched shores, in the steps of Imogene and Sunil, where they fall in love just before everything falls apart.

Veer off the script and spend time in the ancient walled city of Mdina and the UNESCO-listed capital city of Valletta. European, Arab, and North African influences have shaped Malta’s architectural heritage throughout history. Set sail on a boat trip to the mesmerizing Blue Grotto and then return to perfectly situated The Phoenicia Malta, a former palace turned into a luxury resort. Celebrity status included. 

A promotional poster for a Hulu series about Group Getaways next to a scenic view of a coastal city with boats.

Valletta in Malta

Photo by In Green/Shutterstock

The Phoenicia Malta

Photo courtesy of The Phoenicia Malta


Maui for White Lotus

White Lotus, with its glam locations, fabulous characters, and group chat-able intrigue raised the bar for Set-Jetters. Begin your group’s White Lotus adventure at the luxurious Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, where the opulent setting provided the extravagant filming location of the show. Download a White Lotus-themed murder mystery from Etsy to re-enact onsite, don your favorite character’s fabulous finery, and let the fun begin! 

Maui must-dos include snorkeling the Molokini crater, driving the road to Hana, and watching the sun rise 10,000 feet above sea level on top of Haleakala. Alternatively, drinking one Mai-Tai after another as the sun slowly sets over the water is also a rewarding group activity.

Amidst the charm and allure of these filming locations, be mindful of the challenges faced by the local community. As responsible travelers, we have the opportunity to support the recovery efforts by patronizing local businesses, participating in community initiatives, and engaging in sustainable tourism practices.

Four Seasons Resort Maui, Wailea

Photo by EQRoy/Shutterstock

Snorkeling at the Wailea Point Coral Reef

Photo courtesy of Four Season Resort Maui

England for Downton Abbey

It’s true, Downton Abbey movie No. 3 is going to happen! Embark on a majestic journey through the heart of England as you step into the enchanting world of Downton Abbey. From the grandeur of Highclere Castle, where the illustrious Crawley family resided, to the bustling streets of London, every corner of this picturesque land holds a piece of the beloved series.

Begin your adventure an hour west of London at Highclere Castle, a true gem of English heritage nestled amidst rolling green hills. As you stroll through the majestic halls and manicured gardens, you’ll be transported back to the opulent era of the early 20th century, where aristocracy reigned, and drama unfolded behind every ornate door. 

A promotional poster for the "Downton Abbey" movie, ideal for group getaways, featuring cast members in period costume alongside an exterior view of the grand building used as the show's setting.

Highclere Castle in Hampshire, England

Photo by Nick Brundle Photography/Shutterstock

Staycation

Seattle, Washington

Sometimes the easiest way to receive maximum “yes” RSVPs is to keep it close to home. Cutting out a flight means you can really indulge in your hotel. Swanky Hotel 1000 exudes contemporary elegance, offering luxurious accommodations and impeccable service. The gorgeous rooms are ready for bubbles and apps, and leftover champagne can be enjoyed in their egg-shaped tubs for a signature soak experience. Don’t miss booking the Topgolf Swing Suite for the group, where a personal attendant will serve bites and beverages, and assist with golf swing tips. Zombie Dodgeball and other whimsical games are on the menu as well. The undead move quickly so team up!

Local hangout All Water serves boat-to-table fare pulling from local farms and fisheries. For a foodie to experience, hard to find anywhere else in the country, sign up for an Eat Seattle tour in Pike Place Market. Go hungry, leave stuffed and happy, and meet the influential people behind the historical space. Another culinary option is a tour and group cooking class at Atrium Kitchen with Traci Calderon. She is as personable as her food is delicious. Or book a cocktail class at The Metropolitan Grill with mixologist Amanda Reed. The cocktails — with food pairings — are ready to roll when you walk in the door, allowing for maximum time to hang with your homies.

One agenda item that is white hot, is forging your own bottle opener or cutting knife out of molten metal. Embrace your inner blacksmith at Lawless Forge, where you can pound on an anvil to craft custom metalwork under the guidance of skilled (and humorous) artisans. For more heavy metal, take the Grunge Redux tour with Eric Magnuson. Explore the history of Seattle’s momentous music scene through bars, studios, and stories. What could be more Seattle than spending an afternoon revisiting the local haunts of Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Soundgarden? Next stop: vintage guitar shop. Obviously.

 

Topgolf Swing Suite at Hotel 1000

Photo courtesy of Hotel 1000

Three friends working with metal on anvils in a blacksmithing workshop during their group getaway.

Blacksmith workshop at Lawless Forge

Photo courtesy of Lawless Forge

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